Retired Northampton Diocese priest stands accused of sexually abusing six children as jury deliberates his guilt

The prosecution has described a former Catholic Priest as “the perfect storm” as he stands accused of multiple charges of sexual assault on children at Aylesbury Crown Court.

Father Francis McDermott, now 75, is accused of committing sexual offences against six children in the 1970s.

McDermott was for a time practising as a priest at the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Bedgrove - although none of the the alleged offences took place during his time in Aylesbury. All the offences are said to have taken place in either London, High Wycombe or Norwich.

Katherine Lumsdon QC said in her closing arguments at Crown Court today that the scenario was that of a man with a high sex drive who's forbidden from having sex, children who know nothing about sex, and being in a position of trust.

She explained the passing of time between the crimes and the reporting of them as being due to feelings of guilt, shame and “the need to bury it away.”

Father McDermott shook his head as Ms Lumsdon concluded: “He does not have the courage to admit what he's done.”

The defence in return began by making great play of the responsibilities of jury duty and the burden of truth.

Trevor Burke QC said: “Empathy with a victim has its place but it's not here,” adding, “You're basic starting point is that this man is innocent.”

He dismissed complainants as “troubled individuals” or self-obsessed, and suggested it was impossible for the former Priest to defend himself against such historic allegations.

Mr Burke asked the jury: “How can you defend yourself against allegations of unspecified dates from 48 years ago?”

Judge Catherine Tulk took exactly three hours to sum up the case for the jury, highlighting key points from both the defence and prosecution.

Ms Tulk said: “No allegations since 1978 mean Father McDermott is entitled to ask you to give considerate weight to his character.”

However, she also said: “You're entitled to think about how likely it is that six people would make similar accusations against the same person.”

Francis McDermott, now of Bideford in Devon, but who moved between London, Norwich, High Wycombe and Aylesbury between 1970 and 2005 when he retired, denies 18 counts of indecent assault, four counts of indecent assault on a male person, two counts of indecency with a child, one count of buggery and one count of rape.

The jury have retired for deliberation.

Father Francis McDermott

Father Francis McDermott